"It was surprisingly a nice breezy day and we could sit outdoors contrary to what one might expect on an April day in the capital of the desert state (we did eventually witness the temperatures soar eventually, who can escape the sun’s wrath in Rajasthan after all)! It was a day of deepening the fellows’ understanding of gender and upskilling themselves to facilitate community conversations on this omnipresent monster of an issue. It was also a day of ‘all that can go wrong’ but everyone still managed to strive through and learn from each other’s projects and plan the way ahead. The description below is a glimpse of all that happened …
The day began with a short session on ‘gender realities’ facilitated by one of the fellows, Priyanka who through games showcased how the current social systems restricts women from dreaming and aspiring to achieve those dreams while the same system assists men in the same! During the conversation, it also came out that since this the only reality we all know, if women are trying to break free of it, men might feel threatened that this is an attempt to annihilate them as the concept of peaceful and equal co-existence is only seldom talked about. Clearly, we need to work together to give our vision of gender equal world (or a world with gender peace <3) a concrete shape. We need to paint that picture, we need to write that story to be able to share the same with everyone.
The importance of this social system and the need for an alternative reality became further evident through the session on ‘gender socialization’ or simply, how does gender come to be a part of our lives (I can't imagine having been born afraid of being alone at night!). Fellows created stories about a man and a woman based on what they see around and there were stark differences in what messages they receive from their families, school, NGOs, neighborhood – the society as a whole. While the woman protagonist always came over obstacles with an external support, there was no such thread in the man’s story! Of course the flipside was visible in the end of the man’s story where he committed suicide due to financial pressures (bank loans, to be precise) and the lack of support available for him.
Pratiti fellows then clearly articulated the messages that males and females receive from families, schools and media during their lifetime, including women are “impure” at the time of menstruation, men need to be strong, women are beautiful objects and the likes – you might know these from your experiences, none of us are immune to such messages. But once we realize that these are “messages” and not truths or our specific characteristics, we can learn to challenge or ignore these. Even better, we can start to change the conversation and give messages that start of wave of socialization towards a gender equal world ! Right?
|During one of the chai pe charchas|
Pratiti fellows are doing the same in their lives, families, organisations and communities! They are striving to strike conversations and create empathetic safe spaces for everyone – men, women, girls, boys. Girraj from Smile Foundation who works with adolescent in a rural community near Jaipur is regularly holding sessions with women and men to promote sharing of household chores. He is walking the talk and assisting his wife in cooking and child care (much to the disappointment of his mother who is still not on board with his idea, but we are sure he will infuse the spirit of equality eventually in her as well ;)) and trying to engage community members through games and activities. Women members have opened up to Girraj to share that they don’t consider it “right” to occupy chairs in front of men or to not cover their faces. The challenge that he has now taken up is to “inspire” women through constructive action to dream of a reality where they also have “rights” and do not only have to live by what is considered “right”.
Another one of our fellows, Siddharth has taken up the task of resolving gender differences he observes in his organization, Magic Bus. During his initial interactions, women staff members have opened up to share how they feel when they aren’t considered able enough to take on field activities. He has a long way to go to build a common ground for all staff members where men do not feel it is unnecessary that women take on field responsibilities. We are hoping Siddharth can share the benefits of the difference in perspective that diversity brings in, and of course also help them break their stereotypes about women. In the social sector, it is essential that the actors working on various causes are gender sensitive! We cant afford to share the same story of patriarchy through our interactions, it is quite counterproductive to our own efforts to say the least.
We are hopeful that the Jaipur cohort will fuel the revolution towards a gender equal tomorrow and with their diverse approaches and extensive on-ground reach, we await excitedly on the stories that remain untold. As is our habit now, we will keep sharing these with you and wish, pray, request, demand that you take up something in your own lives and join us in our journey :)"
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